Friday, December 30, 2011

Ten Bullet Points on Albert Nobbs That You Probably Shouldn't Read Until You've Seen It

...Although Seriously, Spoilers Aren't Going to "Ruin" It So Come On.

01 -I cannot believe this movie was based on a play that was performed thirty years ago (that was itself based on a short story) and then worked on by Glenn Close forever until it finally made it to the screen. A movie this raggedy, this narratively scattershot, this fundamentally unsure of what story it wants to tell feels like it was thrown together in about three months. Even the Sinead O'Connor song sounds like she just started humming the melody and threw in some words here and there as she thought of them.

02 - That said, the performances by Glenn Close and Janet McTeer are ... if not necessarily worth it, at least worth giving credit to. McTeer is especially great at playing her character's exasperation and eventual fondness for Albert.

03 - Albert Nobbs doesn't know WHAT the fuck he wants. I mean, okay, he wants to own a tobacco shop, obviously, because every three seconds he's either whispering to himself "Twenty more pounds til I can buy that tobacco shop, which is my dream," or else hallucinating his name on the sign above the shop door. But like...does he want to marry Mia Wasikowska? Does he want to run on the beach in pretty dresses and finally live as a woman? Does he want to co-habitate with Janet McTeer out of pure convenience? The movie doesn't know. And, okay, maybe the point is that Albert is forever confused and reticent and unwilling to take the confident steps forward to live a life. But a fundamentally unsure and confused character who never progresses beyond that does not make for a great protagonist.

04 - Mia Wasikowska's character was similarly at sea. (Part of this observation goes to Nick Davis, who was there to commiserate on this movie with me.) She starts off as this sass-mouthed little firecracker, then comes into contact with the strapping Irish cock of Aaron Johnson, upon which time she morphs into something of a cross between Jenny Everdeen and Lily St. Regis, and then she finally downshifts into a pale, whiny thing who beats at Albert with her sad wrists in the least convincing angry outburst I have ever seen.

05 - Speaking of Aaron Johnson, he is sporting some extremely anachronistic abs in one scene (and thank God for it), not to mention how the costume department sized his sleeves like three sizes too small.

06 - Okay, so the costumers. I could absolutely see them getting Oscar nominated -- similar to how I think J. Edgar could get a Makeup nomination -- because the clothes, and costuming in general, are so integral to the plot. But, real talk, it's some seriously crappy work. What, Nobbs couldn't find a pair of pants that didn't accentuate his womanly hips? Meanwhile, McTeer is stuffed full of so much padding to offset her GIANT HOOTS that she looks like she's preparing to play Santa Claus for the (typhoid-stricken) children. Mark said she looked like one of those self-defense-class instructors who put on padded suits so the ladies can practice defensive maneuvers. Or like training police dogs or something.

07 - AND THEN we get to the part where Nobbs and Janet McTeer put on a pair of dresses and it's the single funniest moment I have seen in a movie this year (sorry, Melissa McCarthy and the puppy van), and you almost think that there's been a method to the costumers' madness this whole time because the obvious discomfort these two women are feeling is perfectly matched by these hideous dresses. But none of the rest of the movie has properly prepared for this kind of sight gag, so it all seems like an unintentional moment of hilarity. But seriously: Janet McTeer's Linebacker Shoulders for Best Visual Effect of 2011.

08 - Did I mention Janet McTeer's GIANT HOOTS? When this movie gets on DVD, remind me to post about this part again. There are Fonzerelli thumbs and everything. AND THEN, in that scene where they're in dresses, THAT'S when she decides to strap the ladies down underneath a girdle??

09 - Brenda Fricker is in this movie. Her name is right up front in the opening credits and everything. And I kept looking for her -- Academy Award-winner Brenda Fricker! (And you just KNOW that burns Glenn Close right up!) So Mark keeps trying to tell me that Pauline Collins is actually Brenda Fricker, and I'm like "Not unless she's had three Jennifer Grey surgeries," but we kept looking and looking and wondering if maybe she was going to cameo at the end as Albert's mother or something and then we realized she was there THE WHOLE TIME as the zaftig cook who doesn't get to say much of anything until the end. She was hiding in plain sight the whole time, and it made me wonder how many other movies Brenda Fricker has been in where I just never recognized her. (Super 8? Friends with Benefits? Page One: Inside the New York Times?)

10 - You should see this movie, but don't expect it to be very good. But do expect it to be a good deal freakier than you expected. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers wants a key to his adjoining room, y'all, and he's up to exactly what you hope he's up to.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Thought I Was Over the Bridge Now

Okay, two months since my last post and I'm sick and tired of looking at that damned Melancholia photo. My infidelity with Tumblr has gotten severe, and I have to figure out a way soon to merge these two universes so I can get back to posting on the (semi-)regular. Be prepared -- what follows is meandering and indulgent, but it's something.

I'm posting tonight because I'm still buzzing from seeing my beloved Tori Amos at the Beacon Theater tonight with my awesome pal Jason. My sixth time in the 15 years I've been listening to her. And allowing for nostalgia making things even better in the rearview, I still think this might be the best show of hers I've seen. The gimmick on her current CD -- Night of Hunters -- is that they're all orchestral arrangement, so for the tour she's brought a four-piece string section to accompany her. This means all new lush arrangements for a lot of her old songs, and the reinvigoration of this classic material is as evident as it was back in 1998 when her first tour with a backing band led her to beef up the arrangements on songs from her first three albums.

Of the (approx.) 22 songs Tori performed tonight, I'd only previously seen her perform four, and it's not like she overloaded the set with new stuff either (though I should say that the Night of Hunters songs she did play were quite beautiful, as were songs from her more recent albums that I'm not as familiar with, like Maybe California and Toast). Every time I go to a Tori show, I have a little mental checklist of stuff I've never heard live that I'd love to hear. It's a wish list that's rarely fulfilled. But tonight, I actually got THREE: "Siren" (sparklingly arranged with the strings), "Putting the Damage On" (performed solo and just as aching as the Boys for Pele version), and "Gold Dust," which A) NEVER gets played, and B) somewhat curiously was performed solo despite the fact that the Scarlett's Walk version is loaded with strings, but C) WHATEVER, it was amazing.

(As for "Cloud on my Tongue," the above embedded performance, this was another first-timer for me, and I always seem to forget how emotional that song makes me. The bridge, from which I cribbed this post title, sneaks up on me.)

I really needed this show. The last time I saw Tori -- two years ago at Radio City -- was maybe my least favorite concert of hers. The setlist felt overly familiar, and her performance style had started to feel indulgent. But one great show can put the wind back in your sails, and that's exactly what Tori did tonight. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to crawl up inside my Spotify lists for a while.